Wednesday, November 16, 2005

GIANT SHARK WATCH: Half Moon Bay, California USA

Tim West, a 25-year-old veteran surfer, narrowly escaped his Nov. 2 encounter with what was almost certainly a great white shark.

Sean Van Sommeran, a veteran shark researcher from the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, said there have been more shark sightings in Northern California this year than any year since he began his research in 1990.

He estimates the shark that attacked West was between 12 and 14 feet long and weighed about a ton.
Half Moon Bay Review

As Half Moon Bay surfers Tim West and Chris Loeswick headed toward the water to surf Maverick’s late Wednesday afternoon, they looked out at the empty, gray, inconsistent lineup and had the same thought: shark.

West tried to laugh it off. “Watch out for strangers,” he told Loeswick, but the toothy vibe persisted through the long paddle, and kept them nervous even after they’d each ridden a wave. Loeswick sat with his legs up on the deck of his board between sets, and West began to wonder: Had they made a mistake trying to surf Maverick’s by themselves on a day when the shark aura was so heavy and the lulls were so long?

Um, yes.

The waves were 10 to 15 feet on the faces, not quite big enough for real Maverick’s, so the pair sat far inside, just beyond the gnarled inside double-up known as Phlegm Balls. On the way back out after his first ride, West saw an outside wave break on the main peak, and he paddled past Loeswick toward it, hoping to dial into at least one legitimate Mav’s drop before dark. He was on his belly, maybe 20 feet from the primary lineup, when the shark slammed into his 10’ 1” Neptune gun from beneath and launched him into the air. He estimates that he flew about 2 feet above the water and 5 feet to his left.

“At first I thought it was a seal or some seaweed or a boil,” West, 25, shaken but otherwise unscathed, said the next day in an interview at his home about a mile from Maverick’s. “Then I saw this gray thing just thrashing by my board. I swam away, to the end of my leash, and all of the sudden the thing disappeared and everything just stopped. It went dead calm. I reeled in my board and just paddled straight toward the reef. I didn’t even care about waves – just get me into the whitewater.”

Loeswick, sitting inside, saw the strike. “I glance up and his board gets shot out of the water, and there’s all this splashing,” Loeswick, 20, said. “It was surreal. I just freaked out and started calling his name: ‘Wwwweeeesssstttt!’ I was stoked to see that he was OK. We both paddled as hard as we could toward the rocks. He was maybe 100 feet farther out than I was, but he was so pumped on adrenalin that he just blew right by me.”

West: “Every stroke, I was thinking my life was over.”

Some people are cut out for shark-bite stardom; Tim West is not one of them.

“I don’t want to be known as ‘shark attack guy,’” he said. “I just want to surf Maverick’s.”

If, however, West can manage to make a little money from the mishap, he’s open to suggestions. “If there’s someone who wants to cough up a bunch of cash for an interview or something, I’m down. I’ve got bills to pay.”

He’s also thinking about selling the board, with tooth intact. “I’m thinking eBay. Dude, I might do that. At first I wanted to just fix it and ride it again, but if I could sell for it two grand, I could get like four new boards.”

Surfer Attacked By Great White Shark At Mavericks

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